It's hard to describe the raw beauty of Bhutan. Only by traveling to Bhutan can you really get an understanding of the magnitude of its allure. To try to put it in perspective here's a few reasons why you should travel to Bhutan.
Define: Shangri La (shang.ruh.la) – a mythical Himalayan utopia enclosed in mountains, shrouded in mist and mystery, a permanently happy land isolated from the outside world.
Or is it mythical? Bhutan, aka Druk Yul the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is perhaps the closest we can ever get. It’s a land where snow-capped peaks rise above lush green valleys and primeval forests. Where dzongs and monasteries perch on the sides of mountains and Buddhist culture reigns supreme. Bhutan is a land full of ancient mysticism and surprises, where you’ll find yourself asking if this is reality at every corner. There are a plethora of reasons to travel to Bhutan but here are a few of the most compelling:
1. Gross National Happiness is deemed more important than Gross National Product in an attempt to strike a balance between the spiritual and the material. GNH has been the guiding principle behind development decisions. GNH emphasizes that current development should not have an adverse impact on future generations or on other sentient beings that form part of Buddhist beliefs. The 4 core requirements that all development projects in Bhutan have to abide by are: equitable and sustainable economic development; preservation and promotion of culture; conservation of the environment; good governance.
"The Bhutanese are kind and society-serving. Their generalized paradigm challenged what I had come to consider human nature, and their innovative strategy of Gross National Happiness sets a lofty example." - Lette Family, Bhutan Trip Review, 2014
2. Sustainable approach to tourism. Their philosophy is low volume, high value; incredibly important to a nation that so fiercely guards its traditions and natural beauty. The country only opened its doors to the world 4 decades ago and has instituted strict regulations to protect the authenticity of its country. Traditional dress is mandated for work attire, there’s a ban on non-traditional forms of architecture, and you certainly won’t find any Starbucks or McDonalds.
They also put a strong focus on protecting their natural spaces. Predominantly Buddhist, religion defines the landscape and vice versa in Bhutan. A temple is not placed somewhere because of the view but because it nails down the head of a demon. A lake is not simply a lake but the hiding place of ancient treasure. In Bhutan the countryside melds into deep valleys coated in evergreen forest which rise to soaring heights of over 20,000ft in the mountains of the Himalayas. Blooming rhododendrons mix with an astonishing array of wildlife and birds, including the endangered black-necked crane that boasts a wingspan of over 6ft and returns to Bhutan every year to while away the winter months. Thanks to the government's conservation measures, Bhutan possesses flora and fauna that is unrivaled in the Himalayas. While surrounding nation’s forests have been plundered, Bhutan's - which cover 72 percent of its land - are in fact increasing
3. Low number of visitors. It is a unique honor to travel in Bhutan. When you visit Bhutan, you become one of the few that has experienced this Himalayan kingdom. They took a cautious approach to tourism, “learning from the mistakes of others.” Visitors need to secure a visa and pay a daily fee to enter the country. Bhutan even runs target figures of tourists based on what they think their limited lodging can accommodate. Ask a few of your friends about Bhutan, how many actually know where it is?
4. Beautiful accommodations. Perched on mountain sides, nestled in valleys – the perfect blend between traditional and modern.
5. Friendly locals. Bhutan is famous worldwide for its hospitality. With a base of Buddhism combined with a curiosity for visitors, and English taught at every school you’ll find new friends everywhere you go. Children will invite you to play soccer, a farmer to help them in the field, and monks are always happy to discuss Buddhism with visitors.
6. Tsechus - religious festivals that celebrate Guru Rimpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. Held all over the country throughout the year, these tsechus are generally 4 days and are filled with whirling masked dancers and ancient Buddhist rituals. While world renowned for their color, vibrancy, and energy these tsechus are also integral events for the Bhutanese people. All onlookers who attend are thought to increase their merit and decrease their chances of misfortune for the coming year. The tsechus are the best way to experience the living culture of Bhutan as it skillfully navigates the line between modern and traditional.
6. Beloved monarchy. As much of a fairy tale as anything else the King and Queen of Bhutan are much beloved by the people. Bhutan has a newly elected and respected government as of 2008 but the Dragon King and Queen still reign supreme in the hearts of the people. The King studied in India and the US before obtaining a degree in political science and economics from Oxford. Called the “people’s king” he is famous for his amiable personality and they both share a love and passion for art.
Check out a few trip reviews from Wildland travelers that have journeyed to Bhutan with us in the past:
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